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Spies are a type of test doubles, but they differ from stubs or mocks in that, that the spies record any interaction between the spy and the System Under Test (SUT), and allow us to make assertions against those interactions after the fact.

Creating a spy means we don't have to set up expectations for every method call the double might receive during the test, some of which may not be relevant to the current test. A spy allows us to make assertions about the calls we care about for this test only, reducing the chances of over-specification and making our tests more clear.

Spies also allow us to follow the more familiar Arrange-Act-Assert or Given-When-Then style within our tests. With mocks, we have to follow a less familiar style, something along the lines of Arrange-Expect-Act-Assert, where we have to tell our mocks what to expect before we act on the sut, then assert that those expectations where met:

// arrange
$mock = \Mockery::mock('MyDependency');
$sut = new MyClass($mock);

// expect

// act

// assert

Spies allow us to skip the expect part and move the assertion to after we have acted on the SUT, usually making our tests more readable:

// arrange
$spy = \Mockery::spy('MyDependency');
$sut = new MyClass($spy);

// act

// assert

On the other hand, spies are far less restrictive than mocks, meaning tests are usually less precise, as they let us get away with more. This is usually a good thing, they should only be as precise as they need to be, but while spies make our tests more intent-revealing, they do tend to reveal less about the design of the SUT. If we're having to setup lots of expectations for a mock, in lots of different tests, our tests are trying to tell us something - the SUT is doing too much and probably should be refactored. We don't get this with spies, they simply ignore the calls that aren't relevant to them.

Another downside to using spies is debugging. When a mock receives a call that it wasn't expecting, it immediately throws an exception (failing fast), giving us a nice stack trace or possibly even invoking our debugger. With spies, we're simply asserting calls were made after the fact, so if the wrong calls were made, we don't have quite the same just in time context we have with the mocks.

Finally, if we need to define a return value for our test double, we can't do that with a spy, only with a mock object.


This documentation page is an adaption of the blog post titled "Mockery Spies", published by Dave Marshall on his blog. Dave is the original author of spies in Mockery.

Spies Reference

To verify that a method was called on a spy, we use the shouldHaveReceived() method:


To verify that a method was not called on a spy, we use the shouldNotHaveReceived() method:


We can also do argument matching with spies:


Argument matching is also possible by passing in an array of arguments to match:

$spy->shouldHaveReceived('foo', ['bar']);

Although when verifying a method was not called, the argument matching can only be done by supplying the array of arguments as the 2nd argument to the shouldNotHaveReceived() method:

$spy->shouldNotHaveReceived('foo', ['bar']);

This is due to Mockery's internals.

Finally, when expecting calls that should have been received, we can also verify the number of calls:


Alternative shouldReceive syntax

As of Mockery 1.0.0, we support calling methods as we would call any PHP method, and not as string arguments to Mockery should* methods.

In cases of spies, this only applies to the shouldHaveReceived() method:


We can set expectation on number of calls as well:


Unfortunately, due to limitations we can't support the same syntax for the shouldNotHaveReceived() method.